The Borobudur Temple Complex is considered by many to be one of the seven wonders of the world. And no wonder. It truly is a remarkable architectural achievement, being the largest Buddhist monument on earth.
If you want to visit the complex it’s best to base yourself in the historic Javanese city of Yogyakarta which is located just 25 miles away – around an hour’s drive – from the Temple Complex. How you get to the depends on how much you want to spend: public bus is dirt cheap but tricky, taxis are a better bet, but if you want real independence, rent a private car and simply drive there yourself!
Best is to go real early in the morning to avoid the local tourist mobs who tend to converge on the temple at the weekends and especially on public holidays. The light at sunrise is also very special and makes for an even more enjoyable experience.
But be prepared for the racist ticket policy!
Admission is cheap – if you are Indonesian. Foreigners, however, are obliged to pay about seven times more! In the past you could ask a local to buy you a ticket, but this trick no longer works. Given this racist policy, more and more tourists are opting to boycott Borobudur (and Jogya's other famous temple, Prambanan, as well).
Whether to pay the crazy admission fee or boycott the temple is ultimately a personal decision, of course. I know many people who refuse to pay - but then again many tourists just bite their lower lip and pay the charge. For families though, it certainly makes for a very expensive trip and, to be honest, there are better ways to spend your hard earned money than to hand it over to money-grabbing racists.
The Borobudur Temple was built sometime between 750 and 850 AD. For about a century and a half it was the spiritual centre of Buddhism in Java, but was lost until its rediscovery in the eighteenth century by the intrepid British explorer and Lieutenant-Governor of Java, Lieutenant-Governor Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.
The structure itself is composed of 55,000 square meters of lava-rock and is erected on a hill in the form of a stepped-pyramid of six rectangular storeys, three circular terraces and a central stupa forming the summit. The whole structure is in the form of a lotus, the sacred flower of Buddha.
For each direction there are ninety-two Dhyani Buddha statues and 1,460 relief scenes. The lowest level has 160 reliefs depicting cause and effect; the middle level contains various stories of the Buddha's life from the Jataka Tales; the highest level has no reliefs or decorations whatsoever but has a balcony, square in shape with round walls: a circle without beginning or end. Here is the place of the ninety-two Vajrasattvas or Dhyani Buddhas tucked into small stupas. Each of these statues has a mudra (hand gesture) indicating one of the five directions: east, with the mudra of calling the earth to witness; south, with the hand position of blessing; west, with the gesture of meditation; north, the mudra of fearlessness; and the centre with the gesture of teaching.
Borobudur is an impressive temple but a racist ticket policy is causing more and more tourists to boycott the temple.